Meet Claire Desbans, one of our Program Directors for our Evanston, IL, program. A junior at Northwestern University, Claire has always loved working with kids, which is why she started volunteering with ACEing Autism back in high school in Newport Beach, CA.
“My goal is to go to medical school, I’m not sure what type of doctor yet, but my hope is to work with kids in some way so this experience has been amazing,” Claire said, as she smiled ear to ear.
A double major in neuroscience and biology, she loves to learn about psychology and the brain. “Back in high school, I was always interested in the brain and brain disorder, psychology, and when I started volunteering, I realized how much of an impact I could make and why I eventually wanted to bring it here.”
As the discussion shifted to her transition from volunteer to Program Director, Claire immediately smiled, then laughed before jumping in. “I didn’t have a leadership role in high school so going from volunteering to managing it was an adjustment,” the 20 year old admitted. “But I learned a lot about leadership, how to find participants, how to deal with unexpected situations, and how to find solutions.” Claire then explained that a couple of her participants were having a hard time engaging with the exercises so she enlisted the help of Regional Program Director Vasavi Ganesan and a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA).
“Vasavi was there the first session and the first participant who arrived, he loved running around so we had to close all the doors,” she laughed. “Vasavi helped recognize the issues and guided me through how to respond. It was nice to have that support as I checked in with her throughout the session.”
She then described how another participant who wouldn’t step foot on the court at first, eventually started doing laps around the court at the end of the session. He even picked up a racquet and hit a ball at the end of the session. It was rewarding to see that natural progression with the participants,” she told us.
Becoming a Program Director also helped Claire realize how wide of a spectrum autism was. “As a volunteer you only work with a few kids, but as a Program Director you learn about all of the participants. So that was something definitely new to me. I had to find different ways to engage them depending on their ability so Vasavi and the BCBA who came to our clinics definitely helped me with that.”
Claire then describes the different techniques she saw them use to try and engage the participants. “Seeing the toys she brought, how she worked with the participants, the different textures she used to get their sensory stimulated was really cool to see. It made an impact and got the participants excited, and these are all things I wouldn’t have thought of. It was a great learning experience.”
As we wrap up our discussion, Claire expresses how excited she is to get started with her third session as a Program Director. “We’re very much looking forward to starting on October 15, and can’t wait to see everyone back on court.”
Thank you to Claire and the other Program Directors for making each session fun and available to all! If you, or someone you know, is interested in signing up your child, click on this link for more information: https://aceingautism.org/programs/evanston-il/